I have a Christmas cap like nobody else's.

'way back in the late 70's I started wearing one of those fuzzy, red & white Santa hats the last few days before Christmas. Trouble is, that fuzzy white ball on top would always be hanging off my head, tickling the back of my neck, or an ear. If it hung down the front, it rested between my eyes and I saw two of everything. So, I would sort of stand it straight up and it would stay there for a while before gradually drooping back down.

After I'd owned that hat for a couple of years, it wouldn't stand up for very long, and later not at all, so I got an idea to make it stay up out of the way. I bought a few yards of that fabric stiffener stuff, formed it into a cone the right size and shape, and got Mom to sew it inside my old Santa hat.

It was great! I got a lot of weird looks in malls when I wore it, but what the heck. A couple of years after that innovation, my twisted mind was at it again. I decided that my Santa hat needed to be a cap. You know, with a bill. I went to K-Mart looking for something red and found an Atlanta Falcons cap that would fit me. (May Tom Landry forgive me!) I cut off the top of the cap, leaving something like a visor and Mom helped me out again. She sewed the cap up inside the Santa hat, leaving just the bill exposed, and it's been my standard Christmas cap for many, many years now.

I wear it everywhere I go the week before Christmas. Now and then a late season Softball game is scheduled in that week before Christmas, so I play ball in it. They say it's really funny when I slide! Well, needless to say, that cap draws a lot of attention and double-takes.

Way back in 1984, a few days before Christmas, I had been shopping in K-Mart, in Roswell Georgia, where I lived. It was close to Christmas and everybody had been standing in long lines finishing up their shopping. We were all tired and sort of crabby and it was nearly midnight. Everybody was so tired and we'd been in line so long nobody was even looking at my cap anymore. I finally got to the register and the cashier was ringing up my stuff. I looked to my right, out the windows in the front of the store, to see if it was raining outside, but my eyes went instead to a little old lady in a wheel chair over by the windows.

The guy at the front of the line beside mine was with her (son, grandson?) and had pushed her to the front while he checked out. The lady was very, very old. She was small and frail and bundled up in a coat that was too big for her. Her hair was white and her skin was wrinkled and she looked like she had had a very long day.

I paid for my stuff and headed up front, when the lady happened to look at me and when she did her eyes went up at my cap and she grinned so big I thought her head would split in half! She grinned slowly, like it probably hurt to smile that big, but she couldn't help herself. I went over to her and said, "Merry Christmas!", and when I saw her eyes, I swear she was five years old again! She whispered, "Merry Christmas. Thank you." She slowly stuck out her hand and I shook it.

Her caretaker was standing behind her for all this, quietly chuckling. He said, "Man, you made her Christmas!" I know it made mine.

Every Christmas, I think of that old woman and I remember seeing that little girl and that big smile.

Rocky McCoy© December 23, 2001 All Rights Reserved

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